Australian journalists leave Malaysia after avoiding charges

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Media captionABC reporter Linton Besser has been released after being arrested in Malaysia

Two Australian journalists who had been detained in Malaysia have left the country.

Reporter Linton Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said they were not deported but escorted through the airport by police.

The pair approached Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday asking about corruption claims, which he denies.

Their detention had raised concerns over press freedom.

It was thought they would be charged with obstructing a public official but the charges were dropped, the ABC said. Mr Besser and Mr Eroglu arrived in Singapore on Tuesday.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Reporter Linton Besser (right) and cameraman Louie Eroglu (centre) arrived in Singapore on Tuesday

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Malaysia was not obstructing the media, but that foreign media workers "must perform their duties according to the journalism ethics".

For months, the Malaysian government has discouraged scrutiny over the corruption allegations, including blocking news outlets that have reported extensively on them.

'Failing to comply'

Mr Besser and Mr Eroglu had approached Mr Najib while he was visiting a mosque in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state.

They attempted to ask Mr Najib about a $681m (£478m) payment from the 1MDB state investment fund to his personal account.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Malaysian authorities accused the two Australians of being too aggressive in approaching Prime Minister Najib Razak (centre)

Mr Najib has been cleared of personal wrongdoing by Malaysian prosecutors but a number of international investigations are ongoing.

A statement issued by Malaysian police to news agency Bernama said the two men crossed a "security line and aggressively tried to approach the prime minister".

"Both of them were subsequently arrested for failing to comply with police instructions not to cross the security line," the statement said.

In an email to staff, the ABC's director of news, Gaven Morris, said Mr Besser and Mr Eroglu did not believe they had crossed a police line and had not obstructed officials.

He said they had "fully co-operated with the police" and were receiving consular and legal support.

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